[vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_accordion][vc_tta_section title=”What is Social Protection?” tab_id=”1516723598909-b2752cf2-2d79″][vc_column_text]Social protection has been defined as a range of policies that enable people to cope with and recover from risks and adversities, with the objective of achieving poverty reduction and sustainable and inclusive economic growth. There is a spectrum of social protection interventions that can prevent disease and mitigate its adverse social and economic effects, including needs-based transfers for the poor and vulnerable. There are also specific schemes for people with illness and disability, such as sickness insurance and other transfers in times of sickness, backed up by regulatory and human rights frameworks for workers’ protection and reduction of stigma and discrimination. The SDGs call for progress in creating social protection floors and expanding coverage in all countries, with equity of prime importance..[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Why is the SPARKS network needed?” tab_id=”1516723598911-3554ca09-d093″][vc_column_text]The SDG Agenda offers a unique mandate and framework to advocate for a holistic approach to public health able to account for the multidimensional determinants of health and drivers of illness. There is a need to build upon the SDG framework and generate the necessary bulk of impact and operational evidence to turn this interdisciplinary vision into a truly interdisciplinary approach able to grant effective and sustainable solutions to major global health challenges.

Social protection is at the intersection of the development and health agenda. Nonetheless, the research into the public health potential of social protection schemes is still fragmented, especially in LMIC. For example, although cash transfer schemes are already an element of the response to health challenges in many countries, their impact on health-related outcomes has been only partially demonstrated and poorly understood: several large reviews concluded that conditional cash transfers have an impact on improving beneficiaries health behaviours, the magnitude of which seems to vary across countries and initiatives. The impact on health outcomes is less consistent, with evidence suggesting some effect on improving nutritional status, child growth and adult morbidity status, but not on maternal health, malaria and diarrhoea. These results are consistent with what is also known for HIV/AIDS: while there seems to be a positive impact on sexual behaviours, the impact on actual HIV outcome has been documented only in one study.

Not only is impact evidence limited and fragmented, but also the mechanism through which the impact of social protection strategies operate remains unclear. Achieving a sufficient level of understanding is crucial to design and implement public-health relevant social protection strategies, but also to understand why some interventions do not achieve the expected impact. Finally, it remains unknown how the scope of these schemes can be effectively and cost-effectively broadened to encompass public health objectives, while preserving their primary objective to protect people from poverty.

Given the broad scope and complexity of such agenda it is unlikely that one single research group will successfully fill the knowledge gaps. A network approach based on the share of knowledge and expertise as well as of existing platforms and opportunities may represent a far more efficient way to optimise financial and intellectual resources available. The SPARKS network was created with this rationale and with the aim of efficiently moving towards a more action-oriented type of research to ultimately tackle health inequalities.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Is SPARKS only about TB?” tab_id=”1516724491328-6e923b9c-456f”][vc_column_text]Building on TB as tracer condition for poverty-related disorders with medium to long-term financial and social consequences, the work will then expand to look at other conditions, such as chronic non-communicable diseases and mental illness, which represent a growing part of the burden of disease in LMIC. Since TB is associated with a range of comorbidities, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, COPD, alcohol and drug abuse, undernutrition and mental illness, the TB case study will also provide opportunities to start analysis of these conditions and combined analysis of total costs of all comorbidities.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What is the structure and management of SPARKS?” tab_id=”1516724370994-e621d0d8-ba92″][vc_column_text]SPARKS is comprised of an advisory board, two research hubs at Karolinska Institutet (KI) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) that will function as a joint secretariat, and an open network of partners.

The secretariat will be responsible for day-to-day management of the network and communicate closely with the advisory board, made up of representatives of WHO and partner institutions. This advisory board will: a) enable communication between the programme partners in order to share lessons and knowledge and foster collaborations across the thematic areas of interest; and b) will guide the directions and expansion of the network, as well as help to stimulate its promotion and advancement.

Research projects conducted within the SPARKS networks are owned by the respective partners involved in each specific research project. The SPARKS network, and its secretariat, functions as a catalysing platform for collaboration, but will not in a by itself manage research projects.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”483″ img_size=”full”][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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